The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, usually referred to as simply Wurlitzer, is an American company started in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1853 by German immigrant Rudolph Wurlitzer. The company originally imported stringed, woodwind and brass instruments from Germany for resale in the U.S. Wurlitzer enjoyed initial success largely due to defense contracts to provide musical instruments to the U.S. military. In 1880 the company began manufacturing pianos. The company quickly expanded to make band organs, orchestrions, nickelodeons and theatre organs which were popular in theatres during the days of silent movies.
Over time, Wurlitzer acquired a number of other companies which made a variety of loosely related products including kitchen appliances, carnival rides, player piano rolls, and radios. Wurlitzer also operated a chain of retail stores where the company’s products were sold.
As technology evolved, Wurlitzer began producing electric pianos, electronic organs, and jukeboxes and eventually became known more for jukeboxes and vending machines, which are still made by Wurlitzer, rather than for actual musical instruments.